WHAT IS CONSULAR PROCESSING?
Petitioning for a loved one to immigrate to the United States can be a difficult and confusing process. Consular processing is the process through which a foreign national acquires his/her immigrant visa in their consular post/ embassy abroad. Consular processing involves working with several different U.S. agencies and at times long periods of waiting. Applicants should have a full grasp on the steps to be taken, and a realistic understanding of the costs and approximate waiting time involved.
IS CONSULAR PROCESSING RIGHT FOR YOU?
There are two circumstances in which consular processing is the correct route to use in your legalization journey. First, if the applicant lives in their country of nationality, consular processing may be the best option to obtain a green card. Secondly, if the applicant is living in the U.S., and does not qualify to obtain their green card in the U.S. through a process called adjustment of status, consular processing may be an option. To determine what category you may fall under, it is vital that an immigration attorney is consulted to review your individual case.
HOW DOES CONSULAR PROCESS WORK?
The consular process begins with the approval of an I-130 family petition. This petition must be filed by an immediate relative or an individual under the visa bulletin. The purpose of the petition is to establish the family relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary.
Once the USCIS approves the petition, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center, an office of the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. Department of State is the U.S. government agency tasked with issuing permission (i.e. visas) for foreigners to enter the U.S. The approved petition waits at the National Visa Center (NVC) for the visa classification to be current for processing. Meanwhile, the NVC collects required documents and visa fees from the parties and compiles the visa application file.
The NVC will notify the parties when the visa is available to begin the process of applying for the immigrant visa. The NVC will forward the visa to the U.S. Embassy where the beneficiary resides and an interview is scheduled. The interview step is one of the most critical for visa issuance. If the interview is successful, the beneficiary could be in the U.S. as a permanent resident within a matter of weeks. If the interview is unsuccessful, the beneficiary could be facing an indefinite delay to their immigration plans, or worse yet, a permanent bar. Factors that can delay or prevent the issuance of a visa include a criminal record, past fraud or misrepresentations, and health-related bars, among others.
After the immigrant visa has been approved, the beneficiary can enter the U.S. to become a permanent resident. At the U.S. port of entry airport where the immigrant arrives, he or she will be given instructions for receiving their “Green Card” and social security number.